I recommend the new Psvane Replica WE845 tubes at $719/pr on Grant Fidelity's site and here's why!
On 1/20/14 I received WE845 tubes from Grant Fidelity to use in my Mastersound Reference 845. My birthday was a couple of days later so I was able to convince my wife to allow me to splurge and purchase the quad of WE845 tubes. However I was a tad concerned because Western Electric never made an 845 tube and I wasnt about to drop-in a quad of possibly pseudo 845 tubes which might possibly damage my $12.5K, 135lb, world-class, Mastersound Reference 845 SET amp! So I got in touch with Rachel at Grant Fidelity. She was quite pleasant and took the time to answer all my questions. I asked Rachel how Grant Fidelity could be selling replicas of a Western Electric 845 tube that never existed. She explained these WE845 tubes were voiced to sound like the Western Electric 284A tube, but were built to RCA 845 specifications. Doing that made them a direct drop-in replacement tube for any amp that uses 845 tubes. Feeling reassured these WE845 tubes were safe to use in my amp I ordered a quad of them. .
When the tubes arrived I immediately replaced my 845-B tubes with the WE845 tubes. Then I turned on my audio system and allowed the WE845 tubes to start breaking-in by playing background music. In the meantime I sat at my laptop two rooms away in the dining room surfing the internet and managing SETriodes, my online audio forum. The first CD I put on played louder than I expected it to, so I got up to turn the volume down. I usually keep the amps volume set at the 10 oclock position when Im playing background music. So imagine my surprise when I discovered the volume was still set in the 10 oclock position! These WE845 tubes have some serious grunt to them and that was a very pleasant surprise to discover. In addition to playing louder, the dynamics seemed greater than they had been before. This was just the first day with less than one hour on these tubes and Im already noticing a couple of nice improvements, but by the end of the first day it wasnt all good news. The treble was noticeably bright and that issue was further exasperated by a midrange presentation wasnt as warm, full-bodied or emotionally engaging as it had been with the 845-B tubes I had previously been using. Still it was only the first day. So I wasnt about to judge the performance of these tubes after only 6 hours of usage, Especially since Rachel said to give them about 100 hours to completely beak-in before judging them sonically..
Im not going to bore everyone with a description of the slow day-by-day of the slight sonic improvements I noticed as the background music played Instead Im going to jump ahead a full 5 days. I had allowed music to play for anywhere from 8 to 12 hours every day since I received the tubes. By the time the fifth day arrived I had 50+ hours on these tubes. I was trying my best to follow Rachels advice and allow these WE845 tubes 100 hours to completely break-in. But I just couldnt do it. As much as I tried to, I just couldnt do it. As the days passed my attention was constantly being seduced by the most beautiful music I had ever heard in my home. Every moment that passed it was becoming increasingly more and more difficult for me not to surrender to this sweet seduction. I wanted to, no, I had to go to the audio room, sit in the sweet spot, shut my eyes and allow the music to immerse me in the beautiful sounds that were continually beckoning me to leave my laptop like sirens calling out to sailors on the high seas. On the sixth day I finally gave in. I decided to go listen to what these WE845 tubes could really do.
For this review I played a lot of music covering different genres from smooth jazz and classical to progressive rock and folk. Im not going to cover listening to the different CDs separately. Rather Ill provide a synopsis of what I heard over a six week period of time. I remember the very first time I decided to listen to these WE845 tubes critically. I sat in the sweet spot on my couch, hit play on the remote and closed my eyes. To say I wasnt prepared for what I was about to hear would be a gross understatement. As the music emanated from the deep, black of silence, I heard the effortless, re-creation of a palpable, wide, deep soundstage that ran from about 3 to 4 feet in front of my speakers to the further back than the wall behind them. This soundstage was so wide it went about 4 to 5 feet to the sides of both speakers in my audio room. In fact, the right side of my right speaker is where the outside wall of my house is located. The soundstage was now so wide, at times it sounded as if Id hear sounds emanate from beyond this wall! I heard layers upon layers of well-defined information with spatial clues that provided a foundation for Instruments and singers to unmistakably appear in a reach-out-and-touch-them way. It was the palpability of this wide, deep, 3-D soundstage plus the spot-on imaging that consistently put musicians in the right spots. This is the kind of holographic imaging and precision sound-staging Ive been searching for as an audiophile & music lover since the very beginning.
Added to that was an incredible truth of timbre, beautiful tone & harmonics. Their lightning fast transients and explosive dynamics, their clarity, transparency and wonderful inner-detail, and that makes these WE845 tubes the true contender for being King of the 845 tubes. Oh and I have to also comment on their outstanding decay of notes, that went on and on until at least there was nothing left but the blackness of silence. The more music I played the more I realized these WE845 tubes have a way of making the music come alive in a way Ive never heard any other 845 tube do before them. No matter what instrument played or which singer sang the WE845s pitch, harmonics, timbre and tone was spot-on! I remember when a sax would play Id think --This is what a live saxophone really sounds like-- but I thought that same exact thing when a piano, guitar, cello or any other instrument played. I kept thinking THATS how a piano, guitar, cello etc..really sounds! Im not going to lie. I love 845 tubes theyre my favorite triode tube, but in my 13+ years of using an 845-based SET amp I never heard any 845 tube display this level of musical truth and emotional engagement..
These WE845 tubes have the best treble extension and sonic qualities of any 845 tube Ive ever heard -- for a short period of time I even had a quad of NOS, RCA 845s in my amp and to the best of my recollection these WE845 are their equal if not even better-- The highs are wonderfully extended, always sounding sweet and crystal clear. Yet they never came across as being bright or etched in anyway. In my notes I wrote --This is precisely the type of treble sound I want in my system. Come down into that all too critical midrange spectrum and youll hear that midrange magic that triode tubes are so famous for. Except in the case of these WE845s the midrange sounds like the beautiful midrange of Western Electric 300Bs, than 845s! The mids are nicely detailed, warm and full bodied, smooth, liquid and so darn emotionally engaging,--even now I cannot get away from how musically engaging these WE845 tubes are-- I found myself unable to listen to just a favorite track on a recording. I HAD to listen to the entire CD and I was eagerly looking for another CD to play as soon as it was done! This is some of the very best midrange Id ever heard from any amp, tubed, hybrid or solid-state. They also posses the best bass I ever heard from any triode tube. It was deep, powerful, taunt, well delineated and tonally stunning to listen to.
These WE845 tubes are truly exceptional in every way! They have the capability to convince you you're actually listening to live, unamplified acoustic instruments and singers rather than a reproduction of them. If your audio system is up to the task and doesn't hold these WE845 tubes back, they'll conjure up an astonishing, almost magical sense of live music from virtually every recording you'll play. I'm not claiming they'll make a poorly recorded CD sound like a well-recorded one, but what they will do is make it sound better than it ever did before. I'm also not claiming they'll make a studio session sound like a live performance. If it's a studio recording they'll make you believe you were in the studio while the music was being recorded and with a live recording these WE845s will transport you to venue where the live recording was made. I believe the best way to judge an audio product is how easily it makes you forget you're listening to a reproduction of music rather than to the music itself. With the WE845 tubes that was very easy to do every time. After 8+ weeks of critical listening I'm still impressed every time I play my system. I know these WE845 tubes aren't perfect, but I'm at a loss to fault them. Over the entire frequency range and with every genre of music I played. There wasn't one aspect of the sound where these WE845 tubes exhibited less than state-of-the-art realism. Their tone color, inner-detail, excellent macrodynamics & microdynamics, wonderful treble extension, warm, full-bodied midrange, bottom-end extension and bass pitch definition, and the list goes on and on, were all impeccable. In the end perhaps the best thing I can say is this I had a $4000, incredibly musical sounding, prototype tube preamp installed in my system to evaluate and as good as it was and it was very goodit didn't make half the level of sonic improvement in my system as adding these WE845 tubes did! All hail the new King of triodes.
My Listening Environment
My dedicated audio room measures 15 ft 7 in L by 12 ft 7 in W. The speakers are located on the long wall and theyre separated a little over 8 ft. The ceiling is 8 ft H directly behind where the speakers are located and gently rises to 10 ft directly behind the listening position. The floor is covered with wall to wall carpeting and I have bamboo wallpaper on all the walls. Anyone who wishes to see my listening room or my audio gear can do so at this link: http://tinyurl.com/3sxnnus
Mastersound Reference 845 Integrated Amplifier
GoldeNote Stibbert V.5 CD player (Used as a Transport)
Audio-gd Reference 7.1 DAC
Sachiko Double-Back-Loaded Horns Loudspeaker
Dayton PS220-8 Drivers With Rispoli Cone Treatment Applied (Run Full-range)
Fostex T900a Tweeters (Crossed in at 8KHz)
Grover Huffman SRC IIx Interconnects.
Rispoli Loudspeaker Wires
Rispoli Reference 1 Digital Wire.
Stealth Audio M-21 Super Power Cords